My Time in Rome February 20, 2017

By (Ithaca College) - abroad from 08/29/2016 to 12/16/2016 with

IES Abroad: Study Rome - Language & Area Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I say to my friends when they ask me how Rome was that it was "unironically life-changing". I remember being nervous at the idea of traveling abroad, reading reviews like this, and thinking, "Yeah right. Inspiring...pooh!" Rome humbled me in a way. It is a city that is startling and frightening at first, and then it takes you in like one of its own. As poetic as that is, it was true for me. I would say at least come for the food.

Review Photos

IES Abroad: Study Rome - Language & Area Studies Photo IES Abroad: Study Rome - Language & Area Studies Photo IES Abroad: Study Rome - Language & Area Studies Photo IES Abroad: Study Rome - Language & Area Studies Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I was able to take an Italian-taught course which was incredibly rigorous, and library and expert resources were readily available.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration at the IES Abroad Rome Center are so helpful and compassionate while simultaneously professional and on their game. I've considered finding a way to get back and work with them.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I requested to live in a homestay, which allowed me to stay with a delightful family. This exposed me to cultural insights and a level of independence that I would not have received otherwise. The other side of that, positive or otherwise, is that being in a homestay can encourage isolation from other American students for someone introverted and nervous like myself.

* Food:

I mean, it was Rome! The food provided by the IES Center itself wasn't incredible, but it was okay. In the city itself, I would say that so long as one avoids the gorgeous-looking, too-good-to-be-true, fancy schmancy restaurants that really are traps - chances are the food'll be fantastic.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

My homestay option and my internship surrounded me with Roman culture. I was living and working in Trastevere, so just walking from my internship to my homestay and then from home to the IES Center brought a lot of Italian culture up close and personal (especially when I took the tram or bus instead of walking). My courses each discussed the relevant class material, but several of my professors took the time to acknowledge cultural differences in what we were learning there and things we had assumed from our education (cultural and academic) back home.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I am bipolar, and the administration at IES Abroad arranged an informal weekly meeting with one of their officers as a way to keep tabs on me. The way it was set up, I felt like I had my own agency and all of the freedoms being abroad granted me while also having an emotional support with the school.

* Safety:

I was in Rome during the series of earthquakes in the fall of 2017, and I was immensely grateful for how quickly IES Abroad Rome responded. Within one or two hours after an event of urgency, I would receive a text from their administration asking me to confirm my location and safety. This was stellar. I had never felt an earthquake before, and having this alert system (they had emails, too, with work strikes and local crime information and updates) really relieved a lot of stress.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I fell in love at least ten times over in Rome. I fell in love with the city and the language and the culture...of course. But I sobbed when I had to say goodbye to my professors, and my heart actually broke when I had to leave my host mother and brother. We were family.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

It isn't easy, but I made a pretty low budget work by cooking my own meals as often as possible, not eating out anywhere that charged over 10 euro for a course (pasta, pizza, anything) when I did eat out, and being selective and careful about souvenir and gift shopping.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 50-70euro/week, so under $100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? As tempting as it is, do not eat out every night. Choose a select few times, maybe once a week with friends. When you do buy food at a restaurant, know that any one plate or portion more than $10 is something that you could find cheaper elsewhere if you know where to look. Where do you look? To the locals around you - friends, professors, administrators- who know the area and where to find a good meal and a bargain. Don't tip. You don't need to. Service fees are usually included, and if not 2euro per person at the table is more than enough to cover it. This isn't shorting the waiters; it's a cultural difference. (They get paid a regular salary, unlike ours.) If there is a homestay option, even if it comes with an additional fee, it helps spending-wise, because you're living with a family and can eat with them as often as agreed upon between you, your school, and your host family. As far as restraining those itchy tourist fingers, give yourself a budget. I went to a Bancomat (ATM) monthly and withdrew the same amount (which for me was a little over 200euro) in cash and spent only that for the month. Give yourself the amount that you need and a little more just in case, but keeping cash on hand and minimizing your trips to the ATM will help you be aware of how much you're spending as well as save you from those awkward occasions when a restaurant or bar doesn't take credit or debit cards.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

I was placed into an intermediate-level course. We were encouraged at all times to speak Italian. Our professor was very kind, and when we were too confused, we could speak English. Other, advanced-level, professors held group coffee dates with students outside of class where everyone could grab a drink or a coffee and just chat - only in Italian.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Italian 201
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? KEEP TRYING. Seriously. The trick to learning a language is to try. My tongue felt like an unruly pet snake every time I tried speaking Italian, and the fear of messing up unfortunately shut me up a lot of the time in the first month or so of the semester. Relax. The worst case scenario when you are trying to speak a different language is that you get it wrong and look stupid. I realized at some point that I was going to get it wrong; it was inevitable. And I'm sure I looked stupid. But when you look at tourists (this is slightly mean, but it might work for you) when you look at tourists ordering things at restaurants speaking English really loudly in the effort of making themselves understood....rest in the knowledge that you won't look THAT bad. If that doesn't work for you, remember that no one around you wants you to fail. Learning a language is like learning to dance with someone. Form relationships with the folks around you and play around with what you know. It'll come to you faster than you think.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • New Family
  • New Friends
  • La Dolce Vita
* What could be improved?
  • Group trip organization.
  • In-Center cuisine.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Donald Trump was going to be elected president. If I'd known that, I would have stayed in Rome.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'